Despite amassing one of the most accomplished film resumes of the past few decades, Scott Glenn remains a self-confessed “adolescent.”
Since his Hollywood breakthrough in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, the 74-year-old actor has remained a reliable and compelling screen presence, playing very good guys, very bad guys and everything in between. His latest film, director Basel Owies’ “The Barber” — we won’t spoil which kind of role it is — finds Glenn taking on a terrific showcase for his strengths in a story of a young murder disciple seeking out a man who may or may not have lived a dual life as a small-town barber and notorious serial killer.
Glenn is also about to make his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as Stick, the tough-as-nails blind mentor who helps mold a young Matt Murdock into a skilled fighter in Netflix’s highly anticipated “Daredevil.”
In a conversation with Spinoff Online, the actor sounds off on both of his new roles and looks back at his one-of-a-kind career. And when you read the kinds of things Glenn does when he’s not making movies, you might think Marvel could’ve cast him as Daredevil, if the studio had taken a more mature route.
Spinoff Online: What was the first thing that caught you about the character or the story with “The Barber” that made you say, “Yeah, this is something that I can see myself digging into”?
Scott Glenn: In the reading of it, within the first 30-40 pages, I had the film flip my expectations of the character and what was going on so many times, I thought, “This is going to be so much fun to do.” The unpredictability of it and the amount of different colors I was going to get to work with. And those two things turned me on right away. The only thing about this film that I did have a question about – and I guess in some ways it’s still true, though I could change my mind – it’s so dark.
And when I say “so dark,” there are thrillers and slasher movies and stuff like that that you can say are dark, but they are not primers on how to pick up and murder young girls and get away with it. And in a way, I thought, “Holy shit, this is –” So I gave the script to my wife, and I said, “Should I do this?” Because I have never read anything dark in that way, and she, within 10-15-20 pages, said, “You’re crazy if you don’t. You’ll never get a part like this again as long as you live.” And I’m really glad I did. But yeah, it was the unpredictability and the fact that the film constantly shifts gears on you all the way up to the very end. I loved that. I love the unpredictability.
You’ve worked with one of the more enviable lists of directors throughout your career. So many great filmmakers – Robert Altman, Francis and Sofia Coppola, Phillip Kaufman, Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Demme, Paul Greengrass, Oliver Stone – and here’s somebody brand new on the scene. What was exciting for you about that element of it?
The fact that he was brand new. That he was also – the thing I realized when I met and talked to Basel was that, number one, he’s really young, but also really knew what he was doing. I mean, the program at Chapman really teaches these kids how to make movies. And a good friend of his was Allen Liu, who was going to be the DP, and one thing you realize when you’ve been doing this as long as I have that next to a good script, which is for sure the most important part of any movie, the marriage between the DP and the director. Those two human beings – if that works out, you have a shot. And these guys were on the same page. They knew how they wanted to shoot it.
Basel knew the way he wanted to tell the story, and he also let me know that he was going to be real specific about where he wanted me to wind up, but that he was not going to be even a little bit involved in telling me how to get there. That I could do it any way I wanted, as long as he believed me and thought it was good. That’s kind of a perfect spot to be in. And the fact that he’s young and that the people I was working with were young and former film school students just meant that I was going to be around people who weren’t going to be looking at their watch at the end of the day. They were willing to go all night and then all the next day, were going to be hungry to the point where you could almost see the drool coming out of their mouths. That all that energy was going to be in there, and I love that.
Did that fire you up inside, too? Was that spirit contagious?
Well I feel like that anyway. You know, I was telling someone that my daughters, every birthday I have, always ask me the same question, which is, “Dad, what are you going to be when you grow up?” So I, for an old man, continually live a very adolescent life. In terms of that part of youth, I’m right there.
Did you get to do some adolescent, fun things in your role on Netflix’s “Daredevil” as Stick?
Oh boy! [Laughs] Yes, I did. “Daredevil” was fun and also daunting, demanding and – I was going to say “challenging,” but that’s too weak of a word – demanding in one area that I’d never done or thought about doing as an actor, which is being blind. And all of a sudden, they want me to play a guy who not only is blind, but a blind martial arts master and swordsman and assassin. And I’ve fooled around with and been in the world of martial arts, for many, many years, but it meant doing all that stuff blind, which when I first got the job, I had no idea how I was going to do at all. So I hope I pulled it off.
I haven’t seen any of it. April the 10th is when they launch that series, and I’ll watch them all the way through, from Episode 1 all the way through to Episode 13 – but also, honestly, I’ll watch Episode 1 and then go all the way to Episode 7, very nervously, to see whether I pulled this thing off or not.
I’ve always really enjoyed Stick in the comics. What about the character got to you? What was fun with him?
An amazing, tough sense of humor, a lack of apology about anything, and the need to subtly play someone who views any kind of love as a weakness, yet feels it strongly for this kid – essentially Daredevil is my son, since my adopting him in an orphanage. To play that, and yet play a character that walks away from it and wants to deny it all the time, it’s a funny kind of tightrope to walk. I loved doing it. I mean, I had a lot of fun doing it.
What was it like working with two companies: Marvel, that’s on the top of their game, and Netflix, which is reinventing how we consume entertainment.
I mean, this really sounds like a Pollyanna answer, but it’s the truth – they were so nice and everything that I wanted, in terms of research, or props, or where I stayed when I went to New York, they were just phenomenally great people to work with, both Netflix and Marvel. What’s great about them is that they’re so successful and still haven’t lost their humanity.
Are we, with this movie and “Daredevil” and a couple of other things up ahead, is this a “Glennaissance”? Are we going to see a lot more of you now?
[Laughs] No, I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, it’s like I’m working a lot more now than I ever have, and God only knows why that’s happening. I learned early on in life not to look a gift horse in the mouth. So when my life is going in a really crappy direction and bad things are happening, I’ll look at it really closely and say, “What can I do to turn this around?” When it’s going good, I’m just, “Leave it alone.”
If you look at your career as a whole, looking at it in totality thus far, what do you like about the way your career has unfolded over time?
That I’ve been able to do this and still walk out on the streets and be essentially left alone. I’m just amazed that people actually – I have a manager and an agent, thank God, so it’s up to them and not up to me, but very often, I’ll say to my wife, “They’re paying me all this money. Don’t they know I’d pay them to let me do this?” What I like, mainly, is that I get paid to do something I love. That I’d do anyway. And I also get to live in the Sawtooth mountains in Idaho and live a very physical, adolescent, probably fairly irresponsible life.
What haven’t you gotten to do that you’re like, “There’s still a box somewhere that I’d like to check?” A certain type or character or movie that you’d like to make?
A sophisticated romantic comedy.
Hard to come by these days.
Do you actively look for something like that?
No, I don’t have to really look for anything. I mean, someone was asking me the other day, “Is there anything I want to do that I haven’t done?” and I thought, “One thing – and it probably shouldn’t be done, because it will never be done as good as the original – but I sure would like to have a crack at some version if a retelling of “African Queen.” Not necessarily a boat going up a river in Africa, but it could be anywhere in Southeast Asia or near Asia. That story could still exist. That love story between those two people.
Is there a picture that you made that maybe didn’t get the attention that some of the other ones did, but you’re really fond of that you like to point people to, say, “Hey if you like my work, take a look at this movie.”
Yeah, there’s one that I did, a very low-budget film that I did that never was released [theatrically] and went straight to TV, or I think direct-to-video, but it’s fairly recent. I did it about three years ago, four max. My sense of the past is so crappy. But recently. It’s called “Magic Valley,” it was produced by someone named Heather Rae, and it was shot in Butte, Idaho. “Magic Valley.” I think a really great, intelligent, unusual film.
I’ve read that you’re a bit of a daredevil yourself, off screen. What are the things you do to keep yourself young and have that adolescent zeal?
In a million years, I don’t want to pretend that I’m any good at any of this stuff. Having said that, I have done and continue to do many, many track days racing motorcycles. I do motorcycle tours. Until a few years ago, I was an addictive skydiver – I don’t really do that anymore. I’m an open-water, blue-water hunter, which is deepwater spear-fishing. We go out maybe 30 miles and jump of the boat, see if we can shoot a mahi-mahi and a tuna and not get bit by sharks, which you always have encounters with. I’m a free diver and a skier and combat pistol shot. I don’t know – I live a kind of an adolescent wet dream.
“The Barber” is now playing in select theaters. Marvel’s “Daredevil” arrives April 10 on Netflix.
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